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What Have I Done?

By Amy Nielsen

It is time to register for my second term of classes for my Masters degree already. I am a bit at a loss as to how I got here this fast. I feel like I just started this whirlwind journey last week.

On the student-run Facebook pages discussions are flying about which teacher is best, online vs on campus options, and how to tweak the plan of study to make the program all you need and want it to be. 

First let's discuss that my school works on trimester schedules. As a woman of childbearing years, this word makes me feels suspiciously nauseous, edgy on the verge of crying, and with a distinct need to re-organize the linen closet while eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's at 3 a.m.

I can't deal with that word association for the next some odd years, so I call them terms. Makes me feel less bloated. 

I started this journey with what I thought was at least a somewhat clear idea of what I want to do when I grow up. While I still want to do that, I think there might be a better path to get there. 

The degree program I am working through is a big part of the eventual position I want to hold. Since it is time to choose classes for next term, I decided to re-read the entire course catalog to make sure I know what the school really has to offer. I'm not sure I ever did that when I applied. Biggie mistake, as my favorite employee used to say. This school has so much more to it than I thought.  

Now I have to decide not only if I am in the right program, but also if I need to add an extra term to make sure I have all of the learning I think I will need to be successful in my career. In short, I want to do it right the first time and I have too many options. 

I am currently enrolled in the non-licensure track for my degree. I chose it originally because it sounded more like the policy and politics side of the program. I want to help change the culture of health and wellness in my community by integrating our abundant alternative and complementary care practitioners with our overtaxed and under-supported biomedical system. I had originally thought perhaps a more policy-oriented program would fit.  

I now think I should switch to the licensure track, which in this school has a complementary care concentration in a subject I already hold a certificate in. I wonder whether being a licensed practitioner in my regulation-heavy state might be a better place from which to begin to bring together people and organizations where ideology and terminology can often be insurmountable differences and squabbles over shrinking grants can be vicious. 

If I want to change to the license track, there are three options. Two still fall under my current department, the third is in a different program all together. The two are still Masters of Science programs and while still two-year programs, they require supervised clinical hours rather than a capstone project or thesis. The third is a Master of Arts which does not require supervised hours, but a does require a capstone project as well. 

With a little bit of sleuthing I discovered that there are at least three agencies in my county that do supervised hours for clinical students. All of them are run by people I already know through my recent foray into local community service volunteering.

Doing clinical hours in the organizations I want to integrate would afford me an understanding of the needs of both, a task not possible to do as a policy wonk. The clincher would be whether they can take clinical students who attend school, virtually, in another state. 

Creating and participating in a capstone project in my community would be a more difficult task. Finding a sponsor, creating and running the program then getting the sign off will be harder with the smaller resource pool our rural community draws from. However, I could use the project as the foundation or trial for a post-graduation collaboration. 

The other key to the decision hinges on the transfer of credits from my previous school. If I change to the MA program, I lose a whole lot of credits that I have to make up in an extra term. If I stay in the MS program I can switch my degree path and my concentration and still keep the credits. Which reminds me, I need to make sure I mark them off on my plan of study so I don't take ones I don't have to. More room for cool electives. This school has a lot of cool electives. 

My next step is to call my academic advisor and really spend some time talking through the degree options and my projected plan. With his help I am sure I will be able to come up with a suitable course that will cover all the bases to step me up for success when I graduate.  

Until I can set up the discussion, I will spend a few hours making sure that I pass my organic chemistry class. Because if I don't pass organic chemistry this first term, I'll be taking it again at the end. 


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